Trucking and Obamacare: How healthy will your company be in 2014?

As we quickly approach the open enrollment period under the new healthcare, aka ObamaCare, law, many businesses, particularly smaller businesses, are still unsure how the law will affect them.

Well, I don’t have the answers either, unfortunately. And the sad fact is that for many people, finding an unbiased analysis of the program is virtual impossible. The truth is, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens and businesses will have to adjust their business model as they go.

Starting on Oct. 1, individuals will be able to start the enrollment process. Individuals will be able to buy insurance through “exchanges,” that are either run by individual states or the federal government, if a state refuses to run the program itself. Many states controlled by Republican governors have chosen this route. Based on income levels, individuals may be eligible for federal reimbursement to help offset the costs of the insurance.

That is just the bare basics and the overall law is too complicated to explain here. So what can trucking businesses do? They need to make decisions on whether they are going to offer health insurance to their employees or not.

There have been a lot of stories about businesses saying they will stop offering health insurance once the law kicks in. And they may. But I see a different scenario eventually playing out.

I foresee health care becoming an important bargaining chip for employees. Remember, everyone will be required to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. That means every one of your employees must have insurance, whether it’s through your company or paid for on their own.

With that said, doesn’t it make logical sense that employees may gravitate to companies that offer health insurance as a benefit? It will likely be cheaper for the employee. They may even take a lesser overall compensation package in some instances.

Some in the industry, such as Prime Inc., are serving as a leader in the industry in terms of employee wellness, are well on their way to providing a healthy environment for its employees. Prime installed an onsite medical facility at its Springfield, MO, headquarters. You can read more about that here.

Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems just announced it is doing the same. In fact, Bendix detailed its employee wellness program, which includes weight management, physical activity, tobacco cessation, and stress management, along with prevention and early detection. Yearly physicals and blood screenings are available to employees and family members free of charge through the program. In addition, employees receive an annual personal health assessment – along with free access to resources and counselors through their insurance carrier – to help each individual develop a personal health plan.

Bendix facilities across North America also include onsite employee fitness centers and walking paths, as well as a shared commitment to provide healthy catering and healthy vending machine options.

Bendix went on to note that as a result of these efforts, it did not pass along any health insurance cost increases to its employees for 2013 and its overall healthcare cost per employee has been dropping.

These are just two examples of many. But, some companies are finding the choice to embrace healthcare and employee wellness, and it is improving the bottom line as a result.

Just like CSA changed the way drivers view carriers as potential employees, I’m betting that healthcare and employee wellness will become a differentiating factor as well.

While it’s easy to look at the cost to offer insurance, the question will become what are the benefits? Happy and healthy employees are more productive employees. Productive employees miss less work time and ultimately cost less to insure because they have fewer health problems. That’s a win for everyone.

Is the bottom line hit in year one of Obamacare worth the long-term benefits? We’re going to find out.

So how healthy will your company be in 2014?

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